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March 2, 1995

Trustees, O'Connor say he's staying as chancellor

Rumors to the contrary, Chancellor J. Dennis O'Connor is not planning to resign, nor is the Board of Trustees planning to fire him, according to O'Connor and the current and future chairpersons of Pitt's Board of Trustees.

The chancellor, board chairperson Farrell Rubenstein and chairperson-designate J.W. Connolly, who will succeed Rubenstein in June, all denied the rumors in interviews following the Feb. 16 trustees meeting.

"Absolutely not," O'Connor replied when asked whether he plans to resign.

"There is no intention on the part of the chancellor to resign, and there is no intention on the part of the board to ask him to resign," said Rubenstein. "This is an insidious rumor. Whoever started it around campus, and however it got started, I don't know, and consequently I don't know how to stop it." Rubenstein said he began hearing the rumors in November.

Connolly said, "I've heard the rumors. To my knowledge, they are only rumors." Rubenstein said there is "absolutely no truth" to related reports that a small but powerful faction of trustees want O'Connor out as chancellor.

Asked about the same rumor, Connolly replied, "I don't know if there are any factions on the board, and I can't answer that. I'm not in office yet and I don't know. I hope to become aware of the views of various trustees as time goes on, but I'm not aware of any factions on the board." Rumors of O'Connor's imminent departure have spread throughout the University in recent months. According to faculty, staff and administrators interviewed by the University Times, the rumors can be traced back to August, when the Board of Trustees approved a new fringe benefit for O'Connor — a one-year sabbatical in the biological sciences department, where he is a tenured professor, should the board fire O'Connor within 10 years of his original hiring date of Aug. 1, 1991. The board also gave O'Connor a lower percentage salary raise (2.4 percent) than it gave Pitt's six other senior officers (2.7 percent).

Also feeding the rumor mill were public statements from some trustees last year opposing two policies favored by O'Connor: the granting of limited University fringe benefits to Pitt same-sex couples, and Pitt's participation in the Magellan telescope project in Chile.

University Senate and Staff Association Council leaders say they have been receiving almost daily inquiries from faculty and staff about the O'Connor rumors since the winter break.

Minutes after the rumors surfaced on a local radio talk show last month, the Pitt Student Government Board's Tele-FACT information line received calls seeking confirmation of the rumors, according to a Student Affairs spokesperson.

— Bruce Steele

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